Songwriting Tip: Watch Your Prosody

pros·o·dy* (praw’ suh dee) –noun
1. The science or study of poetic meters and versification.
2.Linguistics . the stress and intonation patterns of an utterance.

A common mistake beginning songwriters make is failing to watch their prosody.

What the heck is prosody, you ask.  Prosody is how you accent words and syllables – where you put the emphasis.  Generally when writing songs and poetry, we want to accent a phrase like we’d speak it.

For example, we wouldn’t say, “I’m goING to the suPERmarKET this afTERRRRRRRnoon.”  Unless you’re wierd.  We must be careful to put the emPHAAAHHsis on the right sylLAHHHHble.

When songwriting we must watch our prosody – what syllables are you holding; on which syllable do you hit that powerful high note?  A good test is – Does the way this line is sung sound natural, like the way I would say it?  Do I emphasize the same syllables I would emphasize when I speak the line?

There you go.  Now you know what prosody is.  Now you can impress your friends at parties.  Just throw in a line like: “You know the other day, I was just tweaking my prosody as I was working on my versification and intonation.”  You’ll be really popular.

*Dictionary.com

Comments

  1. says

    It'll take a lot more than that to make me popular!

    I would add that the funkier your vocal line the less rigidly this applies – Stevie Wonder get away with murder – eg in I Wish –

    "The PrinciPALs ofFICE down the hall".

    Would you say prosody include where you put the gaps? That is something that can unwittingly change the meaning of a line. There was a song that said

    “Don’t quit – like men be strong!”

    but thanks to an unwise pause it became the less gender affirming

    “Don’t quit like men – Be strong!”

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